Coronavirus and its affect on Cats
As I’m sure most of us would agree, when the Coronavirus first showed its ugly head at the beginning of the year, one of my first reactions after my initial concern for my hubby and I, was how is this going to affect my cats? After doing some research and watching many YouTube videos, I have realised that it can affect the cats, it can affect anybody, but how do we handle this, and how do we keep everyone safe in our families, which include our furry friends?
I don’t want to go into too much medical detail about the coronavirus, and the different strands, so instead I’m going to tell you what I’ve learnt, both from my little bit of research I’ve done over this time, as well as my personal experiences with coronavirus and one of my cats.
Feline Corona Virus or Feline Infectious Peritonitis (F.I.P)
F.I.P is a viral disease that occurs worldwide in wild and domestic cats. This is a type of coronavirus which tends to attack the cells of the intestinal wall. (Pets WebMD).
In a nutshell, you get two types of this virus, wet and dry. I am no vet, but I can tell you this, I have experienced the wet form of F.I.P. Diezel (Dizi) my beloved cat, had to be humanely euthanized because he contracted F.I.P. So instead of getting into the biological terms of the virus etc, I thought I would speak about my experience, and what I witnessed happened to Dizi.
Before I move onto that, however, it is always important to understand and to get to know your cat’s behaviour. This was the first sign for me that something was wrong with Dizi.
My personal experience with F.I.P
Before you read on, I would like to suggest that you read more about Dizi, along with the other cats that I have loved over the years, but, to read his story is only so that you can get a better understanding of his background. Dizi was an outdoor cat, and a very happy one at that. He had a true adventurous side to him, and he just loved being out in nature. He came and went as he pleased, but he was never too far. If I stood outside and called him, he would come within minutes. He was somewhat of a loner, but I think that was more because he just had so much exploring to do, and I would like to think that I knew him well enough to pick up when he became ill.
The first sign that something isn’t right with any animal is when they stop eating and drinking. This was, most certainly, the first sign for us. Dizi was not eating, and he loved his food. He was a little bit overweight because of this fact. So, for him to miss a meal was a real sign that something was off. I always tell myself when something doesn’t sit right with my cats, that I’ll give it 24 hours before rushing them to the vet. (Disclaimer: Always consider taking your cat to the vet immediately when you know something is not right). Before the 24 hours were up, however, he seemed to just get worse. He started hiding from us, which was also a clear sign that he was not happy. Cats hide when they are feeling vulnerable because it is a protective instinct. In the wild, if they fall ill, they hide so that they aren’t easy prey for larger predators.
Without causing too much extra distress for Dizi, I managed to coax him out of hiding. When he came out, I got the biggest shock to see that his belly was double the size it was before. As I mentioned above, he was an overweight cat, but to see his stomach that size was not right. Immediately then and there I made the decision to take him straight to the vet.
Once at the vet they said they would need to run some tests, so he had to stay overnight. I was so worried about him, and I had every right to be, because when we got the call the following day, it was not good news. Dizi had F.I.P. The wet kind of coronavirus, which developed a fluid in his gut. At that point I had never heard of Coronavirus, let a lone FIP. The vet advised us that it is not a pleasant disease to live with, so our options were two fold, to put him onto very strong pain killers, but he would only survive a few months, at best, or to put him to sleep. My husband and I, through lots of tears, made the decision to put him to sleep. After all, why should we let him suffer when the inevitable is death? As dark as that statement might be, we figured, he would be much happier to be put to sleep than suffer for what would seem like a benefit to us alone.
So, we went through to the vet, Dizi was already on a drip to ease the pain, so it was a matter of injecting the euthanasia medication into his drip, which was good because it would mean that he wouldn’t need to endure more stress of needles. We put him on my lap, made him comfortable, and the vet proceeded to inject the fluid into the drip. Within minutes, he left us…
How could this affect your cats?
Firstly, don’t panic – the strand of Coronavirus us humans are currently dealing with is not the same strand that killed Dizi. They have not in fact proven that the human strand of coronavirus gets transmitted to cats and vice versa, but I always say that taking precautions in better than doing nothing. What I do is each time I go out of the house, before I give any attention to the boys I’m washing or disinfecting my hands immediately. They also say that you should avoid kissing and general close verbal contact with your cats, but in our home, we take every precautionary measure we can to keep the boys safe.
F.I.P however, is common where cats are living in large groups. It is typically passed on through infected faeces. An active infection lasts several weeks to a few months, if they are lucky. Dizi, got the bad end of that stick, and even though he was only housed with one other cat, he must have picked it up from another cat in passing. This was very unfortunate! One thing I remember the vet telling us is that cats over the age of 2 years are less likely to contract F.I.P. so you can imagine my relief when Travis and Sancho both passed 2 years old without contracting the virus.
Although there was a case in the United States of a tiger testing positive for COVID-19 at a New York zoo, some coronaviruses only infect animals, and do not get passed onto humans. So please do not get rid of your pets because of this fear!
To conclude, cats can get coronavirus, cats can contract COVID-19 specifically. So please take all precautions you would usually take when greeting family members after being out in public. We must adapt to certain changes since the pandemic, and the same should apply to the care for your cats. Should you ever have any concerns or queries with regards to your cats and COVID-19, always consult your local vet.
There are so many characteristics in our little feline friends that make us scratch our heads as to why they do certain things, why they have certain behaviours and generally why they are just the way they are. I recently came across a very interesting article which gives mention to the H.I.S.S Test that every human should know about or do when they come across some strange behaviour in our little fur friends. So, what does this stand for?
As I sit here, I have just given my three cats their dinner. They are satisfied, they are happy, they are cleaning themselves and are just content with life. They are distracted at this time of the day, and they have their routines that follow after dinner. After their bath time, they will ten to one go to the toilet, followed by a drink of water then they settle down for the next hour or so before they begin playtime. Sometimes, especially on weekends, we want them to be with us at this time, because I consider this time of the day the most relaxing, while awake. I often miss this moment, because after feeding them dinner during the week, I have to start cooking for us humans. So I make the most of moments such as these. But how can you teach a cat to come to you?